Friday, April 17, 2009

Gunmen wound leader of last year's Thai protests

A brazen attack by gunmen Friday wounded the protest leader who helped topple Thailand's government in 2006 and paralyzed the capital last year, reheating political temperatures that had started to cool after several days of rioting by opposing forces.

Bangkok remained under a state of emergency and security was tightened around Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said the shooting should not be used as an excuse for more political conflict.

"We are concerned by the shooting obviously. We've got to restore order," he said. "We do not want this to be used to create a wider conflict."

But the attack was a new strain in long-standing tensions between backers of Abhisit's government and supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup three years ago and whose allies were removed from power by the courts last fall.

Sondhi Limthongkul, an outspoken media tycoon and founder of the People's Alliance for Democracy, was ambushed early Friday on his way to work. At least two men in a pickup truck opened fire on his car with M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles, police spokesman Suporn Pansua said.

Bullets shattered the windshield and the rear window. Sondhi's driver was seriously wounded and an aide also suffered wounded, police said.

Sondhi, whose "yellow shirt" alliance helped install the current government, was in stable condition after surgery removed "small pieces of bullet" from his skull, said Vajira Hospital's director, Chaiwan Charoenchoktawee. Sondhi was conscious, speaking and suffered no brain damage, he said.

The publisher used his media empire and influence to organize and lead protests before Thaksin's ouster in 2006 and then again last year to drive the former prime minister's allies from power.

Sondhi's supporters come mainly from the middle class and educated elite of Thai society, and include royalists, academics and retired military. Thaksin's backers are mainly from the rural poor who liked his social welfare programs.

Last year's demonstrations, which paralyzed the government for months and occupied the capital's airports for a week, ended after court rulings removed two Thaksin-allied governments, paving the way for Abhisit's rise in December.

The court action led to the recent protests by a rival political force — the "red shirts," who staunchly support Thaksin and argue Abhisit has no popular mandate to rule. Their demonstrations drew up to 100,000 people in Bangkok last week and forced the cancellation of a regional summit.

The protests were called off Tuesday after several days of violent street clashes drew a threat of a military crackdown.

Abhisit said the Cabinet decided not to lift emergency rule that was imposed Sunday because of the rioting. He said the decision was made after "looking at the overall picture" and was not a direct response to the attack on Sondhi.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said Abhisit's security would be increased and "we may not be able to disclose his plans and schedule as usual."

Vehicles carrying Abhisit were assaulted twice by red-shirt protesters before and during this week's riots. The prime minister returned to his offices Thursday for the first time in three weeks.

The red shirts are angry that several of their leaders have been arrested over the past week, while prosecution of Sondhi and his allies over last year's airport seizures proceeds at a glacial pace.

Sondhi's group charged the shooting was meant to further inflame Thailand.

"It is quite clear that it was political," said Panthep Paopongpan, a spokesman for the group, who stopped short of blaming any specific factions.

But another yellow shirt leader, Samran Rodpej, urged followers to remain calm.

"Opponents want us to come out and react to the incident. They want to destabilize the situation further. We urge that you stay calm and follow developments. We do not have plans to gather on the street," he said.

Bangkok's police chief, Lt. Gen. Worapong Chiewpreecha, said it was too early to speculate on the attackers' motive. "We are investigating all possible motives, including politics and business, but we should not jump to conclusions," he said.

Thailand's army commander, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, said soldiers remained deployed across the capital to provide security for the public and prevent attempts to stir unrest.

Burger King’s Mexican Mistake

Ah, nothing like a good marketing blunder to spice up U.S. and Mexican relations. Burger King recently unveiled a new advertisement for its "Texican" Whopper that portrays a Texas-style cowboy next to what seems to be a small Mexican wrestler wearing a cape resembling the Mexican flag. I guess the svelte, archetypical American juxtaposed with the shorter Mexican-inspired character is intended to represent the cross-border flavors in its newest product.

Well, regardless of its design intention, the advertisement isn't going unnoticed. Mexican officials are now urging Burger King to retract the spot, claiming the advertisement damages Mexico's image and its flag. Is Burger King saying that Americans perceive Mexicans as lesser than they? I hope not, but I believe this is the reaction Mexicans are having to this advertisement, seeing the spot as a threat to their cultural identity.

International marketing "whoppers" like Burger King's can and do happen. And, it is those organizations that understand how much culture and language differences affect profitability in international markets that are most likely to succeed in penetrating new or growing existing markets than their competitors. So what are some basics to consider when going international?

Research Your Market: Understand what motivates your audience, and realize that those motivations may differ, and even contradict motivations in your country.
Build Cultural Awareness: Hire bilingual marketers who are deeply familiar with your target audience and who can immediately identify potential issues and roadblocks before they escalate into a transnational culture war.

Use Qualified Translators: Use native or near-native translators in the target language to ensure that nuances are caught before they go global. Remember Chevy's Nova launch in Latin America? "Nova" translates to "no go" in Spanish, a name that sort of defeats the purpose of what an automobile is suppose to do - go.

Conduct Cross Cultural Training: Train market leadership on cultural differences including management styles and message variances between countries. Develop internal ambassadors who deeply understand the product or service and are able to effectively communicate those key messages to stakeholders, audiences and customers.

Test Messages: Organize focus groups. They are a great way to ensure you understand how your message will be received before a major roll-out. Consider testing not only the copy but also images and color usage as variances in meaning and connotation may exist.

Kevin Garnett will likely miss entire postseason

Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett will likely miss the entire postseason due to the knee injury that has hampered him for the past 2 monthes.

“It’s not official that he’s out for the entire playoffs, but it’s official as far as I’m concerned,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I just don’t see how. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.”

Without him the rest of the Celtics know it will be near impossible to repeat as champions.

“I’m devastated for him,” Celtics guard Ray Allen said. “This is the time of year you’ve been waiting for.”

Sorry Boston fans, but you’re team isn’t going anywhere without Garnett. Even with him in the lineup nobody really thought you could repeat.

Raw Video: Georgia Kidnapping Suspect Killed

Georgia police fatally shot a man Friday suspected of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend's two children after he tried to run over an officer with his car. (April 17)

EPA finds greenhouse gases pose a danger to health

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency concluded Friday that greenhouse gases linked to climate change "endanger public health and welfare," setting the stage for regulating them under federal clean air laws.

The EPA action marks the first step toward imposing limits on pollution linked to climate change, which would mean tighter rules for cars and power plants. Agency officials cautioned such regulations are expected to be part of a lengthy process and not issued anytime soon.

Limits on carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases would have widespread economic and social impact, from requiring better fuel efficiency for automobiles to limiting emissions from power plants and industrial sources, changing the way the nation produces energy.

In announcing the proposed finding, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said it "confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations." She reiterated that the Obama administration prefers that climate change be address by Congress through broad, economy-wide limits on climate-changing pollution. But the EPA finding of endangerment prepares for possible regulatory action if Congress fails to act.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose Environment and Public Works Committee is considering climate legislation, said the EPA finding — stalled by the Bush administration — is long overdue but that "the best and most flexible way" to deal with the problem is for Congress to take action on a broader approach.

Friday's action by the EPA triggered a 60-day comment period before the agency issues a final endangerment ruling.

The agency said in its finding that "in both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem" and that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases "that are responsible for it endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act."

The EPA concluded that the science pointing to man-made pollution as a cause of global warming is "compelling and overwhelming." It also said tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles contribute to climate change.

The EPA action was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling two years ago that said greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and must be regulated if found to be a danger to human health or public welfare.

The Bush administration strongly opposed using the Clean Air Act to address climate change and stalled on producing the so-called "endangerment finding" demanded by the high court in its April 2007 ruling.

The court case, brought by Massachusetts, focused only on emissions from automobiles. But it is widely assumed that if the EPA must regulate emissions from cars and trucks, it will have no choice but to control identical pollution from power plants and industrial sources.

Congress is considering imposing an economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas emissions along with giving industry the ability to trade emission allowances to mitigate costs. Legislation could be considered by the House before the August congressional recess.

Plane that crashed into Fla. home radioed for help

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. (AP) — A small plane crashed into a house shortly after taking off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Friday morning, slicing the home down the middle into two charred pieces.

The plane, believed to be a twin-engine Cessna 421, crashed around 11:20 a.m., and the house burst into flames, authorities said. It wasn't immediately clear whether anyone was inside the home, which is about two miles from the airport. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said one person was on board the plane, but it wasn't known if that person survived.

"I was on the phone, the phone went dead and there was this loud bang and a lot of black smoke emanating from the area," said Dorothy O'Brien, 83, who lives nearby. "Black, black smoke for at least ten minutes."

Though the fire was under control, authorities were trying to determine how much fuel the plane was carrying and whether the engine had cooled before any search of the plane's wreckage could begin.

"Our main concern right now is fuel load. We want to make sure that is stabilized," Oakland Park Fire-Rescue Chief Donald Widing told CNN.

The plane was headed to Fernandina Beach, just outside Jacksonville, where airport officials expected it to land around 1 p.m. But after takeoff, something went wrong. Shortly after it got into the air, it reported trouble to the tower, and the tower cleared it to turn around and land, said Chaz Adams, an airport spokesman. Before it could, it crashed.

"I said 'Oh my God, that could have been my house.' It was that close," said Bill Slugg, who lives across the street.

FAA records list the plane's owner as Sebring Air Charter in Tamarac, a Fort Lauderdale suburb. A message left at a phone number listed on Florida corporate records for one of the charter company's officers was not immediately returned.

The crash was at least the third involving the airport, which caters to small planes and jets, in the last five years.

A DC-3 cargo plane crashed shortly after takeoff into a residential street near the airport in 2005. The pilot, co-pilot and a passenger all survived. The pilot said at the time they chose the street because it was quiet and wide, and has an abundance of tall palm trees he could run into to slow the plane's speed.

In 2004, a Piper Cherokee crashed into the roof of an auto body shop shortly after takeoff, killing two people on the plane and critically injuring a third.

National Transportation Safety Board records show that Cessna 421s have been involved in 12 fatal accidents since 2004.


ORADELL, NJ – In a major blow to the Christie campaign, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Lonegan was endorsed this week by the Republican National Coalition for Life Political Action Committee.

"I am honored by the RNC Life PAC endorsement, and I am proud of my longstanding pro-Life record," said Lonegan. "I look forward to the day when as Governor I will be able to turn my pro-life principles into policy, including ending state funding for abortions."

"New Jersey is hungry for a real conservative Republican who will stand with conviction and fight for his beliefs," said Lonegan. "I am proud to be the only pro-Life candidate in the race for Governor and honored to receive the RNC Life PAC endorsement."

The Republican National Coalition for Life supports candidates who support the Reagan Pro-Life GOP platform plank which states in part; "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."

Derek Brown for Atlantic County Freeholder At-Large

25 year old Derek Brown survives Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis’s empty charges.

Derek Brown, Republican candidate for Freeholder At-Large, was vindicated yesterday. Atlantic County Republican Chairman and vocal Chris Christie supporter Keith Davis filed a seven page-complaint seeking to disqualify Derek Brown’s nominating petition. “I think the County Chairman is challenging me to keep Steve Lonegan from receiving a decent ballot position,” remarked Derek Brown, prior to his 10am hearing on Thursday.

Derek Brown’s suspicions were confirmed when Keith Davis exclaimed, “You’re just doing this to help Steve Lonegan,” during a hearing which was allegedly convened merely to determine Mr. Brown’s eligibility to run, not to investigate his political motivations for doing so. Not one of the many charges stood up to examination.

“I never imagined the amount of hassle the powers that be can put people through,” said newly married Derek Brown. “I work three jobs and had to take time off from work just to defend my right to run for public office.”

The judges at the hearing deliberated less than ten minutes before exonerating Derek Brown of any charges of wrongdoing. “A win for the good guys,” said Sue Sandman, Republican running for State Committee.

The convictions of the onlookers were clearly reflected by the mutters of “preposterous” and “shameful” heard from the crowd while Chairman Davis was interrogating Derek Brown. Bad form and bad taste were on display as Keith Davis was clearly grasping at straws to sully the good name of a young man whose strong moral character is attested to by all those who know him.

Steve Lonegan Discusses New Jersey's Economy On Fox Business

NEW YORK, NY –Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Lonegan discussed the impact of union and state employees on New Jersey's economy in an interview earlier today with Brian Sullivan on the Fox Business Channel.

"There is a real disconnect from reality, and what we’re seeing is the cost of government being driven higher than any state in the country with the highest taxes in America ... the worst income tax, the highest sales tax, and the worst property tax, and it’s all been driven by union bosses. ...

"Over forty years of union takeover and we have driven New Jersey into the ground. It's the worst state in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, to start a business. ... We need to downsize the workforce in New Jersey because 95 percent of all new jobs created in New Jersey in the last seven years have been government jobs. ... It's just not sustainable.”
- Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Lonegan, Fox Business Channel, 4/16/09

Study: More Whites, Fewer Blacks Going to State Prisons for Drugs

(CNN) -- For the first time since the war on drugs became a national law enforcement obsession in the mid-1980s, the number of African-Americans in state prisons for drug offenses has declined, a criminal justice reform organization said.

A study released Tuesday by the Sentencing Project found a 21.6 percent drop in the number of blacks incarcerated for drug offenses, a decline of 31,000 people, from 1999 to 2005.

The corresponding number of whites in state prisons for drug offenses rose 42.6 percent, or by more than 21,000 people, while the number of Hispanics was virtually unchanged, according to "The Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs."

The study, authored by Executive Director Marc Mauer, found that the differences between black and white imprisonments for drug crimes are partly because of how police target suspects and court sentencing guidelines, which vary by state.

Also, there has been a decrease in the use of crack cocaine in predominantly minority urban neighborhoods and an increase in methamphetamine abuse in many primarily white rural areas, Mauer said Wednesday.

The Sentencing Project, based in Washington, said it seeks to overhaul unfair, ineffective criminal justice policies and promote alternatives to incarceration. The group opposes stiff penalties for nonviolent drug crimes.

Mauer said that 2005 offers the most recent breakdown of racial data but there was no analysis by drug type. Nevertheless, "we know in broad terms" that crack and powder cocaine and methamphetamine have been key targets of law enforcement, he said. Crack use also is declining, he said.

"We know that blacks have been disproportionately targeted for crack offenses ... conversely for whites," Mauer said Wednesday. A growing proportion of people have been imprisoned for abusing methamphetamine, he said, most of whom are white.

In addition, the study suggests that much of the difference between blacks and whites has been because of "police targeting of open-air drug markets" or street corners.

"It's conceivable that police are shifting their focus. There has been criticism of police for over policing black communities, especially when it comes to drug offenses," Mauer said.

He said 80 percent of crack offenders are black, while the rest are white or Hispanic.

"As crack use and sales have declined, or moved indoors in some cases, law enforcement activity may have been reduced correspondingly," the findings show.

"We don't know the exact extent of drug selling, what the levels are," but there is evidence they may be doing more indoors now, using cell phones more to make drug transactions so less obvious to police," Mauer said. He said police have reported this trend.

In addition, judges mete out harsher sentences for crack cocaine, most often used by minorities, and powder cocaine, usually favored by whites, although the chemical makeup of the two is the same, Mauer said.

According to the study, "the white increase may be related in part to more aggressive enforcement of methamphetamine laws. While methamphetamine is only used at significant levels in a relative handful of states, data from states such as Iowa and Minnesota show a substantial influx of these cases during this time period."

While the number of people in state prisons for drug offenses rose by less than 1 percent overall during the study period, the increase in federal prisons was more than 32 percent.

"The federal system has rigid, mandatory sentencing polices, especially for crack cocaine," Mauer said. "Also in the federal system, money is not an object there."

The mandatory federal sentence for selling about 500 grams or one pound of powered cocaine is five years, Mauer said. Someone convicted of selling about five grams of crack, or about two sugar packets, gets the same five-year term, he said.

Some in Congress are seeking to equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine, he added.

The study was based on U.S. data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Can Black Men Survive Falling U.S. Economy?

A recent study indicates that of the major ethnic groups impacted by unemployment during the current U.S. recession, Black men have experienced the greatest job losses since the crisis officially began in November 2007.

“What's missing from national media coverage of this recession is plainly a great deal of dishonesty about who's losing their jobs. This is overwhelmingly a blue collar, retail sales, low level recession,” said Andrew Sum, professor of economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., which published the study.

“The Impacts of the 2007-2009 National Recession on Male Employment in the U.S. through January 2009; The Massive Concentration of Job Losses Among Males Especially Black Men and Blue Collar Workers” tracked employment losses in the recession across gender groups of workers overall, and in the four major ethnicities—Asian, Black, Hispanic and White.

The study found that:

•Males are 80 percent (3.1 million) of all people who have lost their jobs in America;

•Black male employment fell by 6.4 percent (482,000), compared to overall Black employment at almost 3 percent (463,000); and

•The unemployment gap between Black men and women is historically unprecedented with Blacks the only group where the gap favors women.

Primarily, Mr. Sum told The Final Call, this gap stems from differences in job types and fields, such as health care, education, social services and well-paying jobs, which are saturated with women and still growing. But if you are a Black man working in trucking, manufacturing, construction or warehousing, you are getting clobbered, the document's lead author said.

In fact, he said, through February, Black men who were employed a month before the recession started have lost their jobs at a rate five times greater than everybody combined, ethnicity and gender wise.

“Here we are as a country that was priding itself on the fact that it elected a Black American president of the United States and rightfully so. At the same time this is the greatest recession loss of jobs by Black men since the end of World War II. This has never happened before, yet nobody on national TV has stood up and said this recession has been catastrophic for Black men,” Mr. Sum said.

“This means we're in trouble,” said Lavar Young, director of the Newark Comprehensive Center for Fathers (Fatherhood Center), which helps men transition who have lost their jobs, homes, or are reentering the work force after incarceration. The Fatherhood Center provides mentoring, life skills, legal assistance, education and counseling classes.

According to Mr. Young, self-help and entrepreneurship is a sure route out of joblessness for Black men. “It's a low cost investment and many times a high reward. In Newark, we have a thriving market when it comes to folks selling things, especially when stores are going up on their prices. We just encourage the men who attend our programs to turn their skills when they were out doing negative things into something positive,” he told The Final Call.

For instance, he added, “One of our guys came to class selling socks, for $4-$5 a pack. It won't ease all your pains, and it's not a lot of money but it will help you over that hump,” at least through about six to eight months of training for a new skill.

According to the study, the demographics of job losers in the U.S. have important implications for the design and implementation of the programs to be funded under the economic stimulus package and work force development policies at the national, state and local levels.

For Mr. Sum, one way to reduce joblessness is to try to get all of the stimulus money distributed as soon as possible to get people back to work, and specifically target projects toward infrastructure, manufacturing, transportation and training money for youth jobs.

In addition, the Obama administration, and recipients of stimulus funds must guarantee public postings of all job openings generated by federal stimulus dollars on websites of one-stop centers.

Cedric Muhammad, CEO of CM Cap and the Eclectic Economist Blog at, also advocates self-help to reduce unemployment among Black men, but their success, anybody's really, he said, is predicated on their ability to organize ideas, money, business and a loyal network of customers.

Mr. Muhammad believes that finding a niche and doing something for themselves is critically important for Black men because they practically have no other option. “In some states theymust employ themselves in cases where they have felony convictions, and are not able to obtain jobs in certain professions and industries.Those jobs where theymay qualify for employment—construction or manufacturingfor instance—are disappearing rapidly,” he said.

Whenever Black men can, they should pool their financial resources because what a struggling individual cannot do, a struggling group can do, whether it is friend-to-friend, family-to-family, or neighbor-to-neighbor, Mr. Muhammad continued. This can apply from so-called gangs to fraternities.

“The best guide and blueprint to building effective unity in business, and overcoming the distrust that cripples economic development,is a formula I recommend—combining the spiritual and moral insights of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's Study Guides, Self-Improvement: The Basis For Community Development with the divineprinciples of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's Economic Blueprint laid out inhis bookMessage To The Black Man.This, supported by life skill, job skill, manhood and fatherhood training is all we need,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Dr. Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy for the Economic Policy Institute, argued that looking at the unemployment rate does not capture the true picture of joblessness. For example, he said, the numbers are suppressed by various factors, such as the high Black male incarceration rate.

His goal is to get Black men and other disadvantaged racial minorities incorporated into the mainstream economy through programs and investments, and to promote success of small Black-owned businesses to help men overcome obstacles to hiring.

But solving the problem of putting Black men to work requires a sincere, national commitment on various levels. The government has to help invest in and develop Black communities, address discrimination in the labor market, address educational disadvantages, and be sure job creation reaches the Black community, Dr. Austin said. “The good news is that people are highly adaptable and the Black family has already transformed itself significantly,” he added.

Abdul Muhammad, a lead instructor at the Fatherhood Center, told The Final Call people should be concerned about the joblessness among Black men because it lends to the large number of single Black mothers who are head of households.

“Black men suffer the worst when it comes to health and nutrition and they're the first fired and last hired ... with our national program. What I'm finding outside of Newark is that Black men in all these cities are going through the same issues, which is the lack of employment, financial empowerment, and not being able to provide for themselves and live a conducive lifestyle,” he said.

As a result, Abdul Muhammad continued, the men feel frustrated and denigrated to a point where they give up, and children suffer when a man, unable to provide for his family, turns away from being a responsible parent.

Ultimately, Abdul Muhammad said, society must allow Black men to become engaged through civic participation and economic opportunity.

Otherwise, it will continue to produce anger, animosity and the horrific numbers of Black men entering the prison system, advocates warn.

“I can speak personally for myself because as most of these guys that enter our organization or Black men in general, I've sat where they're sitting because I've done time in state prison myself. I understand their pain and their frustration but I was just thankful and blessed due to the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad to have the opportunity to learn how to utilize the Self-Improvement Program that he and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan have provided for us as a people,” Abdul Muhammad said.

Attorney George Garrow, executive director of Concerned Black Men, a Washington, D.C.-based national organization, which helps provide positive Black role models for youth, said that although Black male job rates are bleak right now, this is an opportunity for them to reinvent themselves. Some things that might have seemed risky in the past may not be now because the country is not doing well and people are more receptive to new ideas, he said.

Atty. Garrow cautioned Black men against becoming frozen and lapsing into inaction.

“We make assumptions that since the economy is tough, there's no way to get into college to work on an associate degree or get into a training program, but that's not necessarily true. This is an opportunity to improve your skills so as the economy rebounds, you're in the best position than say two-years-ago,” he said.

Barack Obama releases documents showing CIA ‘torture’ during Bush-era

(Haraz Ghanbari/AP)

Mr Obama ruled out prosecutions, saying the US needed a time of reflection, not retribution

Tom Baldwin in Washington

President Obama last night released documents detailing the harsh CIA interrogation techniques that had been kept secret by the Bush Administration as he declared it was time to move beyond “a dark and painful chapter in our history”.
Four memos published yesterday showed that terror suspects had been subjected to tactics such as being slammed against walls wearing a special plastic neck collar, kept awake for up to 11 straight days, simulated drowning known as “waterboarding” and being placed in a dark, cramped box.

The CIA also approved exploiting one detainee’s fear of insects by putting caterpillars in the box with him. Others were kept naked and cold for long periods, denied food, shackled for prolonged periods or had their family threatened.

Many senior figures in the Obama Administration, as well as human rights groups, believe such practices amounted to torture.

Both the President and Attorney General Eric Holder, however, reassured CIA operatives yesterday that those involved in the interrogations would not face criminal prosecution so long as they had adhered the legal advice given to them at the time from the Justice Department. “Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past,” said the President. “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta told employees that the interrogation practices had been approved at the highest levels of the Bush administration and that they had nothing to fear if they had followed the rules. “You need to be fully confident that as you defend the nation, I will defend you,” he said.

The techniques were used against 14 detainees that the US considered to have high intelligence value after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks between 2002 and 2005. These included the alleged al-Qaeda mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who had initially refused to answer questions about other plots against the US.

Bush Adminstration officials believe that the “enhanced interrogations” subsequently used on him helped avert further attacks including one to crash a hijacked airliner into a tower in Los Angeles.

The memos, however, show just how much effort went into the squaring the techniques with the letter, if not the spirit, of international laws against torture. Interrogators were told not to allow a prisoner’s body temperature or food intake to fall below a certain level, because either could cause permanent damage. Passages describing forced nudity, slamming into walls, sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees were interspersed with complex legal arguments about what constituted torture.

One memo authorised a method for combining multiple techniques, a practice that human rights lawyers claim crosses the line into torture even if any individual methods did not.

Although some sections were still redacted last night, the CIA had unsuccessfully argued for large parts of the documents to be blacked out. Gen Michael Hayden, who led the CIA during the Bush Adminstration, said: “If you want an intelligence service to work for you, they always work on the edge. That’s just where they work.” Foreign partners will be less likely to cooperate with the US because the release shows it “can’t keep anything secret.”

Mr Obama, however, said much of the information had already been widely publicised and it was important to emphasise that the programme no longer exists as it once did. Withholding the memos, he suggested, “could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States”.

The documents were disclosed to meet a court-approved deadline in a legal case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s impossible not to be shocked by the contents of these memos,” said ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer. “The memos should never have been written, but we’re pleased the new administration has made them public.”

American Idol's Top 10 Hit The Road: summer 2009 tour dates revealed

The phenomenon that is American Idol will hit the road for a nearly 50 date tour kicking off July 5th featuring your favorite top 10 contestants including Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds and Allison Iraheta.

Hosted by 19 Entertainment/CEO and American Idol creator Simon Fuller and AEG Live! the "American Idols Live! Tour 2009" will run through early fall with stops in Boston, Memphis, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego and Minneapolis before wrapping up September 15 in Manchester, NH.

This season's top 10 tour includes Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, Anoop Desai, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, Lil Rounds, Matt Giraud, Megan Joy, Michael Sarver and Scott MacIntyre.

Tickets go on sale in most cities May 9 !

Poole: Madden was the voice, and face, of football

His face was perfect for the role, massive and gently angled, with easily identifiable characteristics and not a hint of pretense, a Mount Rushmore in and of itself.

His body was ideal, too, insofar as it possessed similar, caricature-friendly characteristics.

And then there's the name: Madden. Madden!

John Madden looked like football, smelled like football, sounded like football and felt like football, which made him uniquely qualified to talk about our national passion. No wonder he was such an astonishing, enduring success as an American sports icon.

Madden on Thursday announced his retirement from football broadcasting, 30 years after he moved into America's living rooms, dens, bars and bloodstreams. He is 73, secure in his legend, with more money than he could ever count and ready to spend more time with his family in the East Bay.

The most famous sports broadcaster in history, Madden will be missed — even if he no longer was the best and never was the most articulate, the most candid or the most controversial.

He'll be missed mostly because he is the most popular football personality we've ever known. Anybody believe that didn't influence his 2006 enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Madden's mug and voice were seen during games on TV. They were on commercials. His face was on books and magazines and, eventually, video games. In a sport where all the players wear helmets and coaches rarely



become stars, nobody was more instantly recognizable.

That's a testimony to the power of the video age — and to a man so wonderfully compatible with it.

And to think, Madden began as a coach. One of Raiders owner Al Davis' greatest discoveries, Madden was promoted from assistant to head coach of the Oakland team in 1969. He spent a gloriously accomplished decade on the sideline before retiring because the stress was affecting every aspect of his life.

Madden had bathed in the highest peaks, leading the Raiders to the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons, seven American Football League or American Football Conference championship games and a Super Bowl title after the 1976 season. Madden also had been devastated by painful defeats, the most agonizing of which was a 1972 playoff loss at Pittsburgh on Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception."

So the big man waded into the TV booth with sterling credentials, having experienced practically every aspect of the game he openly adored. His knowledge was evident from the start. He knew the game, was familiar with its nuances, felt its rhythms and understood its place in society.

Before long, Madden was touching fans all across the country. He was a community barber. A short-order cook. A butcher. A dockworker. An uncle. A neighbor. He was a fixture, by turns silly and serious, with a unique and unmistakable performer-audience chemistry that made his services worth millions to the networks.

And Madden worked all four major networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox. They each recruited him, even though it meant the inconvenience of an employee who refused to travel by plane. Madden didn't fly, and it didn't matter. His ticket was being Big John, with 16 Emmy awards, a singular presence and a brand name as familiar as Budweiser.

Well, that, and the fact that Madden's partners, from Pat Summerall to Al Michaels, wanted him in the booth.

The greatest secret of Madden's success was his ability to express. Nobody — player, coach or broadcaster — captured the essence of his sport better. He did not simply describe or analyze. He effectively communicated the game and the games behind the game. He had the gift of football gab.

Take the 2006 promo for "Monday Night Football," when Madden said, "What's the toughest thing in a professional football game? It's being the mother of the quarterback — toughest thing."

Yet Madden wasn't everybody's mug of beer. He was too gimmicky for some, with his statements of the obvious and his simplified, exclamatory descriptions of collisions and such. For a grumpy minority, he was too much the oaf.

I suspect, in their own way, they also will miss the big guy.

Cris Collinsworth has been chosen to replace Madden on NBC's telecasts. Collinsworth will be more incisive, more daring, more willing to challenge and criticize. He'll be a better journalist.

But there's no way Collinsworth can be as big a star. It's not that his feet are too narrow. It's that the shoes left behind by Madden are too wide.

Contact Monte Poole, Bay Area News Group sports columnist.

Craigslist killer may have struck again

The Craigslist killer stalking Hub hookers for their cash appears to have struck again, but this time he attempted to rob a woman offering “private dances” in a hotel in Rhode Island.

Warwick, R.I., police confirm this morning that a man matching the description of Boston’s Caucasian killer held a 26-year-old woman at gunpoint last night at a Holiday Inn Express and demanded all her money.

“She was offering private dances on Craigslist,” Warwick Lt. Joseph Coffey tells the Herald. He said police are now working with Boston detectives on the case.

The armed suspect, a white male with blond hair dressed in jeans and a dark jacket, tied up the woman with a plastic cord at 11:17 p.m. and attempted to rob her cash, Coffey said.

“The woman’s husband then came into the room and (the suspect) held him up too, but gave up and then fled,” the officer said. “The woman was not injured and nothing was taken.”

The husband chased the suspect for a short time, Coffey added, but broke it off and returned to his rattled wife.

The description of the Warwick attacker is a direct match to the cold-blooded crook who has been targeting hookers and a masseuse around Copley Square.

All three woman attacked, so far, advertised their erotic services on the free-for-all site.

Coffey said Warwick police might have surveillance footage of the suspect in last night’s attack, which they may make public. He added the suspect was about six-feet tall and was “clean cut” – a dead-on match to the Boston sex-scene prowler.

Warwick police are warning all hotels in the region to be on the lookout for the Craigslist stalker.

The attack comes just two days after Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old stunner from New York City offering her services on Craigslist as a masseuse, was shot to death in her hotel room at Marriott Copley Place.

A week ago a man matching the same description bound and robbed a 29-year-old hooker from Las Vegas in her room at the Westin Copley Place.

Boston police say “numerous” tips are now being investigated and a grand jury has been convened to interview witnesses.

Police are urging other women who may have been victims and who recognize the man to come forward.

Criminal profiler John Kelly of New Jersey’s STALK Inc. tells the Herald the .com killer is “desperate” and possibly hooked on heroin or cocaine.

“At first glance, he looks like a drug addict,” said Kelly. “He’s trying to make a buck but willing to act out violently.”

Kelly said heroin addicts would do anything they can to not get “dope sick,” which brings on flu-like symptoms. That could be compelling the killer to hit again to pocket quick cash, he said.

Kelly said the Craigslist killer, always caught on camera with his ubiquitous BlackBerry, is smart enough to prowl the Web for easy marks but desperate enough to ignore the fact he’s being followed on surveillance cameras.

“It’s about the money. It’s about the robbery for him,” said Kelly. “It’s all part of the drug culture.”

The Herald’s Jessica Van Sack and Laurel J. Sweet contributed to this story.

Disappointment with US not prosecuting CIA

Human rights groups and former detainees in U.S. custody expressed disappointment Friday with the decision by President Barack Obama not to prosecute CIA operatives who used interrogation practices described by many as torture.

Obama aimed to turn a page on what he called "a dark and painful chapter," condemning the aggressive techniques — including waterboarding, shackling and stripping — used on terror suspects while promising not to legally pursue the perpetrators, was designed to allow the U.S. to put the episodes in the past.

But the decision left some bitter in the Muslim world, where there was widespread anger over abuse of detained terror suspects. It could tarnish somewhat Obama's growing popularity among Arabs and Muslims, who have cheered his promises to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities and withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

"All of us in Guantanamo never had hope or faith in the American government," said Jomaa al-Dosari, a Saudi who spent six years in Guantanamo before being released last year. "We only ask God for our rights and to demand justice for the wrongs we experience in this life. There will be a time in history when every person who committed a wrong will be punished."

The editor of the Saudi Arabia-based Arab News daily, Khaled Almaeena, said the decision not to prosecute "sends the wrong message."

"They destroyed people's lives ... Unfortunately, they're allowed to go scot free," he said of operatives who carried out the techniques.

The Obama administration Thursday released secret CIA memos detailing interrogation tactics sanctioned under the Bush administration.

The memos authorized keeping detainees naked, in painful standing positions and in cold cells for long periods of time. Other techniques included depriving them of solid food and slapping them. Sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling and threats to a detainee's family also were used.

Obama's attorney general offered CIA operatives legal help if anyone else takes them to court, although the administration's offer of help did not extend to those outside the CIA who approved the so-called enhanced interrogation methods or any CIA officers who may have gone beyond what was allowed.

The announcement comes at a time when Obama is trying to reach out to the Arab and Muslim world and repair ties with a world community where many with disillusioned with U.S. policies under his predecessor George W. Bush.

Many human rights groups condemned the decision, saying that it was necessary to have a full accounting of what took place.

"The release of CIA memos on interrogation methods by the U.S. Department of Justice appears to have offered a get-out-of-jail-free card to people involved in torture," Amnesty International said in a statement on its Web site. "Torture is never acceptable and those who conduct it should not escape justice."

In Egypt, Hafez Abu Saada, of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights in Cairo, said the decision would encourage other nations to let abuses pass.

"Obama told us he will hold to account the people who committed a crime or a human rights violation," he said. "So this is a wrong signal to the perpetrators of human rights — especially third world countries — and also a wrong signal to the international community."